By Christina | April 8, 2008
I have heard this question many, many times in my 22 years as a fitness professional. ”I used be sore the day or two days after a workout, but lately I don’t feel any muscle soreness at all. Does that mean I didn’t have a good workout? If I’m not sore the day after, does that mean I didn’t increase muscle or strength?”
Regardless of how it is worded, it seems that people tend to equate muscle soreness with workout effectiveness. This however is not the case. Muscle soreness is not an indicator of a good workout. Not feeling sore the day after your workout doesn’t mean your workout was ineffective or unproductive. As far as effectiveness, muscle soreness means nothing.
So why then do you only get sore some times and not others? Muscle soreness usually occurs when you make your muscles do something that they are not used to doing. When you first started working out, that was very likely when you experienced the most soreness. You probably felt those initial workouts for days, maybe even a week. As your body gradually became accustomed to the exercises, you experienced less and less muscle soreness until it reached the point where you were barely sore or even not sore at all anymore the day(s) after a workout.
Why then is there no soreness for workouts over a period of time and then all of the sudden you feel sore again? Well, as mentioned before, muscle soreness in the day or days following a workout is caused by your muscles having to do something they aren’t used to doing. So, if your chest workout for the last 2 months has consisted of the flat bench press, incline bench press, and dumbbell flyes, and this time you changed it to flat bench dumbbell press, decline bench press, and cable flyes, there is a very good chance you’ll be sore the next day. Was it because this workout or these exercises were better or more effective in some way? Not at all. It was only because you changed something (in this case exercises), and in doing so you caused your body to do something it wasn’t used to doing. This is what would cause muscle soreness.
Just like with your original workout, you will eventually stop feeling sore and perhaps again question the effectiveness of your routine. All that happened is that again your body has become used to the exercises or sequence. It’s not just changing exercises that may cause the muscles to be sore. It can be a change in the way you did the same exercises. Did you do more reps? Or maybe lift more weight? Were you on the treadmill or bike longer than last time? Did you increase intensity? Any of the above could be enough to cause muscle soreness the next day.
To answer your question, soreness does not mean you got a great workout, just a different one.